Monday, September 11, 2023


Debra Isenbletter, Pastor
Christian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri

Jonah 4:9—”And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.” 

The Lord questions Jonah to see if he has learned from his experience.  God is the Teacher and the question is the Test.  He waits until the lesson is completed, until the gourd dies; until Jonah faints; until Jonah despairs, until Jonah gives up.  God waits until Jonah feels the loss of His grace though he does not seem to realize it is grace.  The Teacher asks the question, “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?” or “Do you have a good reason to be angry for the gourd? Or “Is it right for you to be so angry for the gourd?”  This is the same question God asked Jonah earlier in verse 9. Then, Jonah did not give an answer, now he will.   

The meaning for “Doest thou well” is still the same. Was Jonah “happy”? Was Jonah “content”?  Was Jonah “well-pleased”? The answer has not changed because Jonah has not changed his attitude. As far as God is concerned the answer is no, Jonah was not doing well. Jonah does not see this is the problem and this is part of the lesson.  He needs to see he is not “better,” he is not “happier,” he is not “content” and he is not “well-pleased.” This is about Jonah’s anger and why he is angry.  It is about two things. Is his anger justified?  How has his anger affected him? Earlier he was angry when Nineveh was not destroyed. Now he is angry when the gourd was destroyed.  Earlier he could not justify his anger but now he feels like he can, he has a good reason.  How sad that he feels anger for the loss of a plant, but not the loss of the people.

What did Jonah grieve over? “for the [loss of the] gourd.” It was not over the destruction of a city but the destruction of a gourd.  It was not over the loss of life but the loss of comfort.  It was not about others, it was about himself.  Jonah did not do well because he gave up and did not grow up.  Two times he said, “it is better for me to die than live” (v3, v8). He gave up. When things did not go his way, he gave up.  When things got hard to bear, he gave up

What a difference between Jesus’ attitude and Jonah’s attitude.  Jesus attitude about God’s Will stands in sharp contrast. He knew God’s Will (Heb.10:8-9); He obeyed God’s Will (Heb.5:8) and he accepted God’s Will (Mt.26:39,42).  It is one thing to know the Will of God, it is another to accept it and it is another to obey it.  Jonah struggled with these three things. Jesus’ attitude toward death also stands in sharp contrast to Jonah’s attitude. Jonah gave up on life when things were hard. He said “Take my life from me” (Jonah 4:3) and “It is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3,8).  Jesus on the other hand had a different attitude. He offered up His life. He said, “I lay down my life” (Jn.10:17).

“And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.”— This is Jonah’s answer. It is Yes.  It is I have a good reason to be angry. It is I have a right to be angry.  The excuse or justification for his anger is the destruction of the plant. The plant died quickly, before its time.  The plant had potential and a purpose. What about the people?  Jonah should have felt the same about the people who would have died suddenly, who had potential and a purpose, because God could use them just as He used the plant. Jonah did not realize that God was already using them as a lesson to Jonah, just as He used the plant as a lesson for Jonah. Jonah does not see the problem with is anger and that it comes from pity for the plant and for himself.  He cared about the destruction of the plant and not about the destruction of the people. Both the plant and the people are God’s Creation. 

The extent of Jonah’s anger is “even unto death.” Another translation is “I am angry enough to die.” He was so angry that he wished to and wanted to die.  He is still self-destructive. He is still self-centered.  He is still self-seeking. He is still self-absorbed. He is still angry. But he is still God’s prophet! What he needs to see is that if he is this angry there is something wrong with his anger. If his anger is that self-destructive, there is something wrong with his anger. Because he is still God’s prophet, his God is trying to teach him a lesson, so that he will learn and grow and so that he can be profitable. 

Jonah can be seen as a type of Israel in all their weakness and struggles to obey the Lord, in their rebellion and resistance, in their attitude to the Gentiles.  But the anger of Jonah can also picture how a child of God can be angry and how destructive that anger can be. Paul tells us we can be angry for all the wrong reason. He tells us that anger needs to be “put off,” we can let go of it.  We can release it. We can surrender it.  He tells us of the danger of anger, that it leads to wrath and that wrath leads to malice (Col.3:8). It leads to sin (Eph.4:26). It is destructive, both to others and us.  It needs to be faced and judged. Jonah had tunnel vision and we can have the same problem.  

Jonah is angry about the plant but not the real problem.  He is even more angry about his condition. He is miserable, unhappy and unsatisfied.  He needs to realize he is the problem. He needs to surrender whole-heartedly to his God, to submit to His Will and His Word. One day the nation of Israel will do this but as God’s children we do this now.  We do this as a testimony of the power of the Word of God in our lives and the power of the Life of Christ in our lives. One of the hardest things we have to do sometimes is just to face those uncomfortable things in our lives, to let go of those things that hurt us and others, put them off and to put on Christ.  To surrender. To submit.  When we do this, we will do well and one day hear our Lord say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant” (Mt.25:21,23).